Armed Guard – Doomed if you Do, Doom if you Don’t

A polite way of putting it, if you know what I  mean. In respect to arming guards,  what does this old “idiom” mean? Well. here goes:

  • No matter what you do, it could cause trouble.
  • There are problems if you do and if you don’t.
  • You will be criticized when you do and when you don’t.

Are you, “doomed if you do, or doomed if you don’t “, when to comes to arming your guards  ? I don’t necessarily think so. A company must have a detailed documented policy  for all type security precautions, including armed personal.

Now, does your company have a “firearms” policy and does it contain certain legal  buzz  words such as ” foreseeable”, ” preventable” ,  ‘inherent  risk”, ”  reasonable and appropriate etc. ? Or, does your company rely on a contract guard service contract, to cover your assets  ?

Even though you may use a guard service, your company should also have a “firearms” policy which details the responsibilities such as :

  • A contract providing guard shall submit a complete outline of firearms training given to the employees. Upon approval of the program and certification by the contract guard services, the guard shall be considered trained.

What are the specifics of your contract guard Post Orders, with respect to “detaining suspected trouble makers” , as opposed to just ” observing and reporting” ? There’s a vast difference, you know, with respect to physically  intervening and just being a good witness.

We also have an incalculable  difference between a spontaneous civil disturbance and a conflict  expected to occur, due to intelligence gathering information. I have always held, if information is obtained in advance, then the corporation should make the necessary plans, including getting the appropriate  law enforcement agency involved.

Whether your guards are armed or unarmed, makes little difference, when it comes to legal action. Legally speaking, it’s a  “catch 22″ .If a guard draws a weapon and fires, resulting in a fatal or non-fatal injury, your company could, in all probably, stand to be the victim of legal action. On the other hand, if an unarmed guard only observers as a witness, you could also be sued for not attempting to prevent the occurrence.

You see, it’s a common response in today’s environment, that all uniformed officers have a duty to prevent,  or at least attempt to prevent, any type violence. When someone  see a person with a badge, law enforcement type belt,  a radio, a flash light etc, mimicking a  law enforcement style uniform, they assume that person has some sort of authority or means to protect them. Sometimes, however, the invited  may  find out, after it’s too late, that the security person is nothing but a uniformed witness.   And when the officer does react, the officer ” best be right”.  It’s that old “Monday morning quarterbacking” syndrome, you see.

So, what’s the solution, as far as your company is concerned. Should  uniformed security personal  be armed or unarmed ? Hypothetically speaking, is it better as a matter of speech, to “live or die” armed ? This controversy of security ” going armed”  has probably been around since the cave men started carried loaded spears. And of the many articles, which I have read on the subject, there have probably been more “pro and cons” than any other security subject.

In my former life, as a bank Security Director, I had the dubious privilege of drafting a “Guard Security” policy.  The preamble of the policy went something like this:

  • While it is desirable that certain personnel be armed in the execution of certain duties, only those assigned security duties and who are authorized to do so by Senior Management may carry firearms or other weapons with the intent of “going armed” while on company premises, in company owned vehicles or while on company business. These persons are: ( And the positions are then named )

The policy continued similar to this:

Employees, or outside contract personnel, who may be authorized to carry or posses firearms in the line of duty or  in company-owned vehicles must be approved by a member of Senior Management.

  • Each person who believes his/her job content requires or makes beneficial the carrying of weapons shall apply for authorization by completing the company “Internal Pistol Permit”  form.
  • Persons not having security duties to whom a company vehicle is assigned and who wishes to have therein a firearm “for protection” shall apply in writing to the designed  member of Senior Management, for permission to do so.
  • No one shall carry firearms with the intent of “going armed” or “for protection” on company business until he/she has received authorization or permission, as listed above.

The most important subject detailed, in any firearms policy, should be the ” section on the use of “deadly force”. Here’s a sample: .

  • A firearm shall never be drawn unless there is strong probability that it will become necessary to fire a shot or shots. Under no circumstances shall a warning shot be fired. The use of deadly force, including firearms, is justified only when all of the following conditions are present.
  • Defending against deadly physical force directed against the employee or other employees, customers or others on corporate property.
  • Apprehending an individual known to have committed a deadly felony, in the presence of the employee.
  • When all other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted.
  • It does not threaten other employees, customers or by-standers

 Obviously, this statement, or any other company policy written by a company legal staff, will still not prevent legal action. In our country.  anyone may be sued by  anyone else for just about any activity.  However, it does pay to have a very strong “firearms policy”.

The presents  of security personal, be them armed or not,  just seems to have a calming effect on employees, as well as customers alike.  Employees may feel more secure walking to a vehicle or in a parking garage. Customers also feel more secure walking from a parking lot knowing that a security guard is there to deter robberies or assaults. The simple presence of a security guard provides a comfort level of safety.


The following questions were ask on an internet web site:  Does anyone have any statistics on the effectiveness of armed vs unarmed guards? Is there an impact on the customer/employee that we should consider? What liabilities should we consider? I am open to opinions, suggestions and anything that might help me with this decision. Statistics are very persuasive with the execs.

Answer: There are no statistics, to my knowledge — and determining if using guards at a particular location actually deters a criminal act is virtually impossible.  ( Bankers )

So, one must use their better judgment, when considering utilizing armed verses unarmed guards. As mention before, anyone may sue for anything.

About The Author

Charles (Chuck)  Robey’s 40 plus years of  professional diversified service includes such management areas as:  Deputy Sheriff, Deputy Coroner-Medical Examiner, Bank Security/Auditing, Brinks Armored Transportation, and American Kennel Club Field Inspection. Mr. Robey has published numerous articles, addressing his areas of expertise and  is available, to assist in any form of Security.  He may be reached at

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